July 19th, 2009 19:19 EST
Gates Congratulates Navy's 971 Newest Sailors
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
NAVAL STATION GREAT LAKES, Ill., July 17, 2009 " Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today congratulated the Navy`s 971 newest sailors as they graduated from boot camp here among much pomp and pageantry.
When you leave here and move on to your permanent assignment, you have the great responsibility of defending our nation and its interests here at home and in distant lands, " Gates told the nine graduating divisions. It is no easy task, but it is a vital one if the United States is to remain safe, prosperous, and strong.
I have no doubt that you are more than equal to the task, he added.
Gates complimented the graduates on having the uncommon perseverance and patriotism " to enlist and complete eight weeks of basic training.
Earlier today, I observed some of the exercises and training you have completed. I am impressed, to say the least, he said. It takes uncommon perseverance to make it through basic training, just as it takes uncommon patriotism to make the decision to join the military in a time of a war.
The new sailors exemplify the Navy`s core values of honor, courage and commitment. You embody the adage of, Not for self, but country,` he said.
They will have the chance to reinforce the adage when they join their shipmates deployed around the globe, from Iraq and Afghanistan to ships at sea. But there`s a good chance they`ll spend more time on dry land than water, Gates said.
In the Central Command area of responsibility, there are more sailors serving on land than sea, as SEALs, devil Docs` performing frontline surgeries, engineers, ordnance disposal experts and in countless other capacities, he noted.
Regardless of their duty station, Gates said, the sailors are following in a long and vital tradition.
From the Barbary pirates to al-Qaeda, our nation has faced fierce and unpredictable adversaries that would do us harm, Gates said. However, just as in the time of wooden ships and iron sailors, our enemies underestimate our resolve and our capabilities only at their own peril.
You are the next generation of sailors that have been tasked with the heavy burden of ensuring the safety and security of our nation, he said.
Gates assured the sailors and their families, however, that he takes his personal responsibility for each of them very seriously and will do everything in his power to help them accomplish their mission and bring them home safely.
He concluded his remarks with the Navy`s customary wish: I wish you fair winds and following seas.
Earlier in the day, Gates attended a capping ceremony aboard the USS Trayer, a destroyer simulator on Naval Stations Great Lakes. The ceremony officially marks the completion of a recruit`s training and is the final step before graduation.
The secretary`s visit to Naval Station Great Lakes concluded his two-day trip, which included a town hall meeting at Fort Drum, N.Y., and an address to the Economic Club of Chicago yesterday. He returned to Washington today to bid farewell to Army Secretary Pete Geren who is leaving his post after two years on the job.